A drawing… A line! “Understand”
She found her way with engraving and now completes it with drawing. Two mediums that reveal a singular universe, a dreamer, from which come out imaginary characters and animals. Through her works, Marie Boralevi creates an enigmatic bestiary and characters with an indigenous aesthetic as well as childish subjects in a joyful ironic setting. His drawings fit perfectly into the exhibition “La Belle et la Bête. Regards Fantastiques” presented until October 20, 2019 at the Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton. The 33-year-old artist is represented by the Jean-Louis Ramand gallery in Aix.
Marlène Pegliasco: Marie Boralevi, could you present your career path?
Marie Boralevi: I grew up in Montmartre, between Place du Tertre and Halle Saint-Pierre. My first memories of drawings take me back to this museum and these streets. As a child, I remember imitating in my room the cartoonists I saw on the hillock on the way home from school. Drawing was part of my daily life. It’s always been natural to draw. I’ve always liked it. I don’t know why, because, unlike my brothers who don’t draw at all, I needed art every day. At the time, my father was taking his Master’s degree in Art History at the Michelet Institute and I remember that art books were invading the walls of the apartment. I leafed through them, immersed myself in them. I copied engravings, paintings, drawings. Dürer, Ingres, Michelangelo, they were all killed. It was very clumsy, of course, but I needed to understand and internalize the images that fascinated me and frightened me too.
At the age of 12, there was a turning point, I think. After seeing Vincent Van Gogh’s “La chambre à coucher” at the Musée d’Orsay, instead of copying the painting (which I had been doing until then) I tried to restore what had touched me deeply in this painting, and I ended up moving away from the model to paint my own room. It was the beginning of a more personal production that has never stopped since. As a teenager I continued this very solitary practice of painting and drawing in parallel with a course in art history at the Sorbonne and copy courses after the masters at the Beaux-Arts de Paris. I was following in my father’s footsteps, but I felt that it didn’t fit me completely, I was stagnant and technically I wanted to go further. I entered a preparation in applied arts to try the entrance exam to the École supérieure des arts et industries graphiques Estienne and learn engraving. These two years in Estienne were very important in the evolution of my practice which until then had been very intuitive.
I was in contact with a demanding technique that laid the foundations for the way I work today. After graduating, (with the jury’s congratulations) I continued my studies at the École supérieure des arts appliqués Duperré, but I missed studio practice and engraving. I needed it. I needed it. It was vital. So I started renting a workshop in parallel with this course to continue engraving in the evenings and on weekends. Then one day ELLE magazine launched a competition for the États généraux de la femme and the subject was “What is the representation of women today? ». It was 2010, I was still in Duperré. I was selected to exhibit at Sciences Po. And the engraving I presented at the competition immediately appealed to a collector, Evelyne Deret, who still follows me today. She played the role of patron and opened a whole network of people who allowed me to exhibit my work, including the director of the DDessin exhibition, Eve de Meideros, thanks to whom I met, during the DDessin 2016 exhibition, my gallery owner Jean-Louis Ramand, with whom I still work today.
M.P.: What place does drawing have in your creation?
M.B.: In 2013, I won the Pierre Cardin Prize of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in the engraving section thanks to my series “Animal Kingdom” which attracted Erik Desmazières’ attention. But a year later, the workshop that allowed me to do engraving closed and the time to look for another one, I had to find simpler ways of expression. The need for drawing quickly became apparent and I saw in this change, the opportunity to explore large formats (which copperplate engraving did not allow me to do). I felt a great freedom in the simplicity of execution which is quite stimulating. Simply something had changed. I wanted to rediscover through drawing this experience I had had of a less direct figuration, where the fruit of the work is no longer instantaneous. Where everything stretches in time, postponed until it is printed. I wanted to draw as I engraved. That the medium of drawing is no longer reduced to its preparatory dimension but that it culminates at the top of my creative process, at the end of the day. Through technical manipulation and chemical experiments, I have arrived at a hybrid process that allows me to give back through drawing the sensations I need to express while playing with this notion of imprint that is dear to me.
I proceed by step, by stratification. After a process of research and image selection from which there is a sampling, a reframing or displacement work, the second phase of my work begins: the production of a digital collage from these photographic fragments, these representations of bodies or skins. It is the assembly phase, the moment when I draw on the computer and submit the shapes to the spirit of the drawing. A moment that allows me to identify working hypotheses and that inscribes my approach in this time that I find necessary to eliminate the wrong tracks and be fair in relation to the image and what I want it to say. From this digital model, I produce a single print, an enlargement, which I transfer by hand, thanks to a chemical process on Japanese paper. At this point in the printing process, I re-engage the body gesture in my practice, which allows me to rework or refine certain shapes, confirm choices, accept or cause accidents and deviate from the initial collage to begin work on the trace. Tasks are formed and I am almost in abstraction or deconstruction. In any case, the very clear shape I had assembled on the computer is completely altered by the transfer. It is as if diluted in paper thanks to the solvents I use. The marking obtained, almost ethereal, triggers the final phase of creation, that of the “pure” drawing, which allows me to incise the sheet of paper of my graphite line and give it an even deeper imprint. This is the most intense moment when I can inhabit the drawing and move towards greater precision of shapes, working in a linear way, or by using solid graphite powder. Everything becomes clearer and really appears. For me, drawing is the culmination, it remains both intuitive at the time of its execution but thanks to these successive steps, it carries within it a kind of emotional charge. It becomes the condensation of a very long manufacturing time and solves two seemingly contradictory states of my creation, the virtual and the real. Two states that actually reflect a single ambition: to enter into the material of the image. Whether it is when I shape or deform the pixels by zooming on a screen, or when I try to restore the flesh to graphite on the grain of a paper whose imposing size allows me to go into every detail.
M.P.: Your drawings are quite “photographic” and your characters seem to emerge from a dreamlike parallel universe.
M.B.: The intersection of the photographic print with the use of pencil adds to the ambiguous dimension of my images. The perfection in accuracy that graphite drawing allows me to achieve and the manipulation of transferred photographs that offer this almost “photogenic” aspect to my line, give my characters the appearance of life. It’s like they’ve just been photographed, when they’re not real. So there is a strange impression of life generated by the medium itself, which I explore in order to serve this disorder.
Since 2018, I have been working on representation through portraiture in a series of drawings entitled “Persona non grata”. The impetus for this series was really the desire to produce a drawing whose realism would raise doubts about the true nature of what I am showing. To do something that would only have reality in appearance. Realistic but surreal. Like a dream or rather like a dream. Like these images that cross our minds and are both true and perfectly misleading.
To generate my faces, which are therefore artificial faces, I cut, glue and superimpose the features of a considerable number of real model faces gleaned from the internet or fashion magazines. Like Frankenstein, I am in the workshop as well as in the laboratory. The figure is reduced to a surface state, and the layers of skins melt into each other. By dint of manipulating this Western and stereotypical beauty, faces are drawn according to norms. They all look alike, producing an impression of “déjà vu” from one drawing to another, and making the process that takes place in each image and the effects of unreality that emerge from it even more visible. The figures, of which neither the part of true nor the part of false are known in the end, are trapped between two opposite states. Artificial faces and natural faces collide and produce a play of ambivalence between reality and illusion. It is this ambivalence that I like to work on and that constitutes for me an interrogation on the very notion of representation, in which the true and the false are constantly intertwined.
Portrait of a draftswoman
If you were a drawing? I would be one of mine.
Your favorite technique? The transfer. The act of moving from one place to another.
What is the most unusual medium for creating? The skin.
“Drawing is like”: Understanding.
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